I'm not sure what to say. I don't know what words to use to describe the feat, the feelings, the renewed hope, the sobering reality that stands in our way tomorrow.
Maybe the numbers can convey why it's so hard to understand. The numbers themselves make this achievement inexplicable.
In the history of 7-game series in the NHL, only 8% of teams have come back from a 3-1 deficit. None of the teams that accomplished the reversal were 8th seeds. The stats show that Montreal's ousting of the Washington Capitals last night was nearly impossible from a statistical standpoint.
It was nearly impossible from a logical standpoint. From a reasonable one. After the Habs went down 3-1 in the series Halak allowed 3 goals. He faced 38 shots on the road in Game 5, he played an epic and unforgettable Game 6 in front of the luckiest 21,273 fans ever assembled at the Bell Centre and made 53 saves. And he made 41 stops in Game 7 to eliminate the league's giants. 134 shots in 3 games, 3 goals scored. The Caps, done with.
41 shots blocked in Game 7.
1 power play goal allowed in 7 games, against the league's best power play.
Shutting down Alexander Ovechkin in the last 3 games, all elimination games. Keeping him pointless 4 times in the series.
There are no words. It's just an impossible feat that defies anything remotely fathomable in the world of hockey. It's a freak of nature and savour it, because this was one of the most special, magical, anthological performances this team has ever produced. This team, a mixed bag of old and largely new faces, disjointed and hurt in October, connecting in November, struggling through the winter, and realigned in February, is now entirely together in the spring and has managed to write another remarkable chapter in the Canadiens' layered history.
Whatever happens, what experts called a science experiment last summer has worked well enough to produce this unforgettable narrative. The feeling we feel today is exceptional.
We undertand the desire to sign Hal Gill, without whom the Habs would have lost the series. We are in admiration of Mike Cammalleri, the last Canadien to score this often in the clutch since God knows when. Gomez, Gionta, while not as effective played their part in toppling the Capitals with grit and intelligence, with dedication to the team. Bergeron, getting it in the end, even if it meant he would play a restricted part in favour of a young rookie who had only played 2 games in the NHL. Bergeron played 90 seconds in the first last night. Look what he did with them. Moen, adding that Mike Keane factor you so desperately want, giving Gomez and Gionta room and heart.
But still, we worry. We worry that this trend cannot continue and that you don't get outshot 2 or 3-1 throughout the playoffs and live to tell. You cannot help but wonder why the Kostitsyns even bother to wear a jersey that means so much, when their play shows so little. That hat trick in Game 2 should have lifted Andrei to another level. He stalled after it. He reverted to his nonchalance, one strong shift followed by a lackadaisical one. Andrei Markov, a shadow of himself throughout the series, playing hurt possibly or simply caught in a rut? Or was this series so hard on him that he needed to hyper-focus on his defensive mission against this offensive juggernaut and leave his own team's offence to the forwards.
The second round that starts too early to bare seems daunting now. If we the fans aren't ready for it, how do the players feel?
Whatever happens, the performance the team put together, with its stunning feats and discernible flaws, was a kind of magic. Of course we want more because we don't want the feeling to end, but I think we'll take what we can get and, as far as 2009-2010 goes, consider ourselves lucky, proud and satiated.